Sunday, July 19, 2015

Genealogy by the Numbers: A White Whale Hobby

Like all good hobbies, genealogy can really occupy your time. I mean REALLY occupy your time. But in a really meaningful way, of course.

I was recently thinking about the status of my research and what would "done" look like. Could I ever say enough is enough, I've completed my mission, and wrap everything up with a nice bow on top?

Nope! I could not do that. There's always more people to find - new branches to untangle and bring back to life. The math is forever in genealogy's favor: one you, two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents...

But it's not just a numbers game. We're not collecting baseball cards. Culling the stories that bring your ancestors back to life is time-intensive and, I believe, the most rewarding challenge of genealogy.

It helps that evolving technology continually makes the sleuth-work easier, and an increasing number of never-before-seen records once entombed in dusty archives are debuting on genealogy websites.

Simply put, there's no end in sight to this hobby as long as the thrill of the search holds its appeal and your attention.

All Y'All Made Me
As I think about the exponential number of people over the course of history who were necessary to creating me, I've paused to assess where my research stands. Allow me to indulge in the numbers game, and ask myself how many of them have I excavated?

When I started prying into my ancestry five years ago, I only knew the names of three of my great-grandparents. They were the three that I met and knew growing up. Who were the other five? Who were their parents?

Since that time, my research not only uncovered the names of those five, but also all 16 of my second great-grandparents. This even includes one great-grandfather who tried to use a non-paternal event to slip by unnoticed. Thankfully DNA didn't let that happen!

In fact, of those 31 people (myself to my second great-grandparents), I now have a photograph of each of them. Well, except one: William B. Upton, and I haven't given up on him. I know that one day a photograph will surface. I will find a picture (as I type that I realize I sound like Ahab after my white whale. I'm hoping for more positive results).

Now I'm just bragging, but I've even learned the identities of all 32 third great-grandparents. However, my research gets a bit spotty as we move to the next generation.

I don't know the names for 11 of my 64 fourth great-grandparents (nearly 20% remain lost to history). Who were these third great-grandparents' parents?

There's work to be done. I search on. It's this search that fascinates. It leaves me eager to chisel away at the remaining unknowns and resuscitate their story and legacy.

No comments:

Post a Comment